An air quality pep-talk primer: Transportation – a rallying cry, really

‘When I’m mobile’ …

People are locomotive creatures. No, really. There is a sort of restlessness about us in that we are not one, generally, to be sedentary for too long a time. We are mobile beings, admittedly, and this not-always-wanting-to-be-in-one- (or the-same-) spot inclination, (our need or desire) to get out and about has obvious impacts, good and bad, locally, regionally as well as globally. We aren’t meant to be pent up – period.

Our inclination for translocation has us using our feet, legs, hands, fingers, arms (our appendages, basically) and bodies, wholly, on call, at the ready, if you will, to answer the call when the need is there to put such into gear which, bottom line, enables our success in terms of our moving, maneuvering and navigating about. It is a really polished system when you think about it. And, it may sound complicated but it really is not.

Over time, we have created and have at most of our disposals tools to make locomotion (place-to-place moving) easier, simpler, sometimes safer and/or speedier. In the area of innovation, when it comes to our getting from one location to another, there has been leaps-and-bounds growth and development. The sky, figuratively, of course, is the limit. No need to mention all that’s out there; just look around you if you have not already noticed.

360px-CBX_Parkchester_6_jeh[1]When one does, one will see a parallel – or should: the more modes making use of a plethora of mode types that have been deployed and are presently in use, the more it seems that the byproduct of released emissions coupled to that one facet of our lives is evident in air and the more pronounced, it appears, the contribution of such has become. I read about this quite frequently, in fact.

It has been only recently as a matter of fact, that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from transportation has overtaken energy generation which, previously, was the largest pollutant-emissions contributing sector (41 percent by volume)1 total from all sources.

The Nov. 2011 International Union of Railways in its High Speed Rail and Sustainability report offered, “In addition, transport energy-related CO2 emissions are predicted to increase by 1.7% a year from 2004 to 2030.”2

You may like to know what the breakdown of emissions-release percentages (by mode) in 20053 were:

  • Aviation (domestic) – 5%
  • Aviation (int’l.) – 6%
  • Road – 73%
  • Rail – 2%
  • Shipping (domestic) – 2%
  • Shipping (int’l.) – 9%
  • Other – 3%

In some European nations and elsewhere, a hardline stance in addressing transpo. pollution is being taken. Limits, for instance, are being imposed on the number of polluting vehicles that are allowed to enter cities’ proper and the ones that are allowed are likely to be charged a fee if it is not that way already. Such action in Paris immediately comes to mind.

Getting automobilists to switch to cleaner forms of transportation or adopting the use of cleaner-burning fuels or even embracing notions like non-polluting electric- and fuel-cell-powered vehicles, by doing such, this will have a positive effect on air especially if there is a heightened reliance on such.

In the heavy-goods-movement department, putting more of the cargo on trains certainly has an air benefit; even more so when said trains are powered by cleanly (renewably) produced electricity. It is little different for trains carrying people. Improvement with respect to aviation and shipping is absolute; these are most certainly not exempt.

With transportation on a global scale now the single largest source of CO2 emissions when it comes to output, it stands to reason that if we are to make the greatest impact in terms of air-quality improvement, transportation is the place to start. If success in this area can be realized then, the will being there, doing similarly regarding the remaining sectors is no way out of the realm of possibility either.

There is this saying: When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Time to get serious, I mean, really serious, on cleaning up transportation-sourced toxic air emissions.

If this sounds a lot like a rallying cry, no secrets here. It is just this very thing, indeed!

An encouraging word’…

Meanwhile, in more encouraging news, according to the American Public Transportation Association, 69 percent of transit-related ballot measures across the United States on Election Day (Nov. 8, 2016) were voter approved.

For details, look here.


  1. Jehanno, A.; Palmer, D. and James, C. (2011): High Speed Rail and Sustainability, “4.1 HSR has a lower impact on climate and environment than all other compatible transport modes (4.1.1 Energy consumption and GHG emissions): Figure 6 Distribution of CO2 emissions in the world by activity sector – 2007,” International Union of Railways, URL: (p. 15)
  2. Ibid. “4 High Speed Rail is a sustainable mode of transport,” URL: (p. 13)
  3. Ibid. “4.1 HSR has a lower impact on climate and environment than all other compatible transport modes (4.1.1 Energy consumption and GHG emissions (High Speed Rail is part of the solution to fight climate change): Figure 7 Global transport CO2 emissions by mode share in 2005,” URL: (p. 15)

– Alan Kandel